Isabelle de Borchgrave answers questions about her intricate paper costume creations

Artist's work will be on display at Baker Museum in Naples Sept. 21-Jan. 12

Belgian artist Isabelle de Borchgrave's costume exhibition 'Papiers al la mode' will be on display at the Baker Museum in Naples from Sept. 21-Jan. 12, 2014.

Photo by Andreas von Elnsiedel/Isabelle de Borchgrave's Facebook page

Belgian artist Isabelle de Borchgrave's costume exhibition 'Papiers al la mode' will be on display at the Baker Museum in Naples from Sept. 21-Jan. 12, 2014.

Isabelle de Borchgrave's intricate trompe d'oeil costume exhibition bringing nearly 300 years of costuming entirely fashioned from paper opens this weekend at the Baker Museum in Naples. Borchgrave herself, however, is hard at work in New York on a project for top-end tablewares designer Villeroy and Boch and will not be able to attend the exhition until later in its run.

The Belgian artist did, however, agree to answer questions about her work from the Naples Daily News via email:

Naples Daily News: How did this interest in creating paper fashion works of art begin, and is it your total work now? Do you no longer create prints and landscapes?

Isabelle de Borchgrave:I am a painter. I will always paint landscapes and create prints. But using paper to create dresses is like a child’s dream that comes true. Paper is the first material that a kid receives to draw/paint. I am not a stylist, so at the beginning my dresses were more paper sculptures than fashion. After visiting the Met in New York I just wanted to create the costumes I saw, I wanted to possess them. I am a textile lover. But I would never imagine to recreate those dresses in textile, the purpose is not to copy them, but to reinterpret them and paper is a great material to make people dream because it is such an easy material that everyone feels that he could make it himself !

See photos from de Borchgrave's 'Papiers al la mode' and learn more about the exhibit

NDN: What is the most difficult part of creating a costume work -- at the very beginning point, when the paper is lightweight, or at the end when it has been painted and repainted and is possible less fragile than brittle?

de Borchgrave: The white page is the beginning of everything. It lets the inspiration go everywhere. But sometimes it stays white a little longer. But the most difficult part in creating a costume is when the paper is painted, cut and that we have to fix it on the mannequin. Since paper doesn’t allow a lot of movements we have to fix it in a way that looks real, alive. This is always a little scary but also always an exciting challenge.

NDN: Because of the fragile nature of these pieces, do you create duplicate parts when you are creating a costume?

de Borchgrave: No, we do not create duplicated parts but we keep every pieces of paper that is not used to make the dress and that will be used to repare the dresses if needed later.

NDN: When you are creating a piece, are you most concerned with creating patterns and textures true to the era, or have you incorporated some device -- whether it be a fabric texture, a print or a design element -- that is outside that era but that you feel would have enhanced the essence of the costume?

de Borchgrave: It is always an interpretation but it is also based on historical clothes. If we recreate dresses from the Medicis family we have to respect the era, we cannot make historical mistakes. That is why research is a big part of the work. But knowing the period well is a good thing for interpretation. But always in respecting the period style.

NDN: Have you considered allowing any of your pieces to be made in actual fabric?

de Borchgrave: There is no reason to recreate them in fabric. The purpose is to create them in paper, to use the simplest material to create the costumes I like, to admire those costumes, and not to wear them. They are more sculptures than clothes.

NCN: Of the types of costumes you have created, is there one period that fascinates you more than others, and what is the inspiration?

de Borchgrave: All the costumes I created represented a period or style that inspired me. The colors, the patterns, the cut... I love Italian renaissance, that is why I had to do something on the Medicis and their power. Fortuny inspired me all my life, he is like a master for me, and the collection with the pleated dresses was really made as an homage to him. Papers à la Mode was the first one and it tells the story of fashion, the 300 years of fashion that creates the fashion world today and that inspired so many artists. But the most inspiring thing for me is the textile. Textiles from all around the world that I bring back from my travels.

Online

http://www.isabelledeborchgrave.com

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